For Dancing makes me joyful (2015), Lena Liv, through various materials and languages, explores the concept of dance as a form of thought. The dancer, hovering in space, goes beyond the commonplace gesture to touch the universality of our being.
“..Golden chains from star to star … And I dance …” consists of three layers of glass in which the figure of the dancer and the architectonic settings - the decadent interior of a baroque villa in the Tuscan countryside - are superimposed. The images are multiplied and fluctuate in a kind of spatial suspension; they go beyond the linguistic categories of synchrony and diachrony to arrive at an extraordinary unicum in which the various moments are superimposed in an indistinguishable totality.
The recording of various moments becomes the starting point for the analytical, questioning approach of the artist. In fact, Liv's work develops like a complex fresco or an itinerary in which it is possible to pinpoint the fil rouge that unfurls throughout the single works. Hers is an archetypal journey which leads into darkness from light and then back to light again, an allusion to the metaphor for Gnoseological knowledge which has its essential starting point in classical poetry.
Plato, in dance, saw an approach to universal harmony; the writer Lucian of Samosata interpreted it as a divine gift, born from love, which had its origins in the cosmic dance of the stars, in the heavenly movements and their harmony. The scholar Caterina De Rienzo has written, "Various and important thinkers of modernity, from Nietzsche to Valéry, Mallarmé and Merleau-Ponty, have reflected on dance as a transcendental experience, an impermanent impulse to confer visibility on the invisible; an experience capable of deconstructing our finiteness and of 'reconstructing' reality to reach the mobile areas of being". Through gesture and movement the dancer indicates feelings, human passions.
The movement in space of this young woman of African origins underlines the various states of mind that populate our life: anxiety, pleasure, fear, calm. And in her dance pieces too, Liv starts from a contingent situation to arrive at the universal. Her search is meant for humanity in the most classical sense of humanitas.
These are trials of existence where movement underscores the relativity of everything, in an area of doubt which cannot have an answer. Liv has brought on a meeting of cultures between this young Zambian dancer and choreographer, who has lived in Belgium and now in London, and who has danced in the huge frescoed hall of the Villa di Corliano.
This is a dialogue that leads to a hybridization of various elements to give life to something different. The clothes she wears are those of everyday life, simple and without frills.
In “No words, no thougths : but in my soul grow a boundless love" the girl wears socks, domestic garments, that impel the viewer to imagine normality; they are in sharp contrast to the setting. The room is an enclosure, in the ancient and sacred sense of the term where phenomenological events occur.
“But all joy wants eternity, wants deep , wants deep eternity” consists of a series of images on glass in which Liv restores to us the brain's perception of an image which finally achieves unity from fragments. In a similar way, we are offered this fragmentation through works in pastel which allow a further possibility for analysis. What is determining in her piece is the use of paper which, in this case, is the support but which in other works is the basic substance for sculptures. Liv senses paper as a primordial material, one that is not simply a surface on which to draw or write but a self suffiicient entity somewhere between reality and the mind, offering a three-dimensionality of thought: a sort of metamorphosis that upsets any other possible reading.
In “But all joy wants eternity, wants deep , wants deep eternity” as in the other large luminous works, the light is not something external to the work which illuminates it, but an intrinsic part that determines it: the exterior light is a metaphor for the interior light in which the merely narrative aspect is absent. The subject of these works is linked to the present, but time is suspended. It is a successful attempt to pose some existential questions. Over the years Liv has used photographic archives in which time has already created a detachment from the real fact. Photography for Liv is not a record, but the real fact, in a semiotic sense, to attain something else; a completely reconstructed image. This leads us to a further dimension, with no media limitation, reaching an essence that is deeper than it appears.
Her works bring us into an a-temporal dimension in which there is an eternal return, in the sense of Walter Benjamin: the repetition co-action that determines the universality of phenomena and feelings quite apart from individual events. This is the ontological fil rouge of all her work: the spirituality that we find in folle, in the sense of a philosophical concept, a limit, threshold, existential mystery, in childhood innocence; the primordial moment in the history of man,in nature, in places of solitude but also in that surreal and poetic dimension that is profoundly intrinsic to her underground spaces which we find now in the rooms of the ancient building.
Liv is interested in ancestral ideas that not only go beyond micro-histories but also beyond the macro-histories of which we are more or less consciously protagonists. Hers is not a judgemental attitude but, rather an acknowledgement that goes in depth. The protagonist of La legge della stella e la formula del fiore (2013-14) is nature, of which mankind is all too often the depraved son. It is the poetry of the little things that we find in all her studies, in the silences where the details are in dialectical relationship with the whole.
In her works, darkness alludes to light, though the glowing light does not illuminate matter but is itself transformed in matter. A kind of ambiguity is created that induces us to read the photographs as painting, and the paintings and drawings as photography, without any kind of hyperrealist virtuosity. It is a continual iconic antiphrasis in which oblivion brings us back to memory, light to darkness, and vice versa.
The clarity of noticing a fleeting moment, as in dance, brings us to the facets of fluctuation of phenomena in a philosophical sense.
The great dancer Pina Bausch said that when one is completely lost, dance begins. Dance as an existential necessity, just as art is for Liv: a daily need, a cure to enable one to face up to the complex heterogeneity of existence.